Dutch Proverbs
Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Dutch Proverbs

Majority and Minority Rights


Minority-majority tensions are among the most pressing issues of our time and a key factor in the rise of populism. The reemergence of majority nationalism raises new concerns over the tyranny of the majority. At the same time, fears over the erosion of majority groups’ cultural identity appear as a result of global migration. This calls for a reexamination of fundamental assumptions in liberal political theory and the meaning of nationhood in a globalized world.

The project combines empirical analyses of selected cases with normative political theory. Empirically, it focuses on countries with distinctive majority-minority constellations. Rather than analyzing European cases directly, we draw on the experiences of non-European countries in forging nationhood in diverse societies (e.g., Canada, Israel, India, and Australia, Fiji, Malaysia and Taiwan). Questions include: What are the vulnerabilities that minorities and majorities face? How do states deal with different types of majority/minority constellations? And how do distinctive political contexts and histories influence the legal responses to minority and majority rights?

Theoretically, the project seeks to develop a framework for the adjudication of both majority and minority claims based on the empirical findings. It pays particular attention to the normative relevance of historical attachments to a territory and/or a particular polity. Questions include: Can minority and majority rights be based on similar justifications? What normative principles should be applied? How does this affect theories of democracy, justice, and nationhood?